by David Phelps
"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." - Mother Teresa
Last month, there was a Biblical "epic" on television called Noah’s Ark. It was a dreadful film, and it turned the story of Noah (Gen. 6:9-8:22) into a hodgepodge that included such unlikely elements as Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his wife, pirates, and sea monsters.
There is another movie that will be playing in theaters by the time you read this, the latest Star Wars movie. Compared with the television epic Noah’s Ark, it’s surprising how well Star Wars manages to convey the central message of the Bible: There is a way that leads to light and a way that leads to darkness -- the "light side" and the "dark side" -- and it is up to us to choose the way of light (Acts 26:17-18).
According to the Bible, the people of Noah’s time had become wicked and had turned away from God (Gen. 6:11-12). Their ways led to destruction, at the hand of God. In the same way, the world today has turned away from God and is headed toward destruction of our own making.
Many years ago, Moses told the people of Israel they had a choice to make, between life and death, between the way of God and the way of disobedience (Deut. 30:15-20): "'Now choose life, so that you and your children might live . . .'" (Deut. 30:19b). Unfortunately, today as then, people frequently make the wrong choice:
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Prov. 14:12 NIV).
Recently, in Littleton, Colorado, two teenage boys chose the way of darkness, with the result that more than a dozen people from Columbine High School are dead because the two boys came to school armed with guns and bombs. As usual, the so-called "experts" have a wide variety of explanations for what happened: video games, guns, violence on television and in movies, lack of parental involvement, and more. But the simple, central fact is that, for whatever reason, the two boys chose the wrong path. They chose the path of violence instead of peace, conflict instead of reconciliation, harm instead of healing, death instead of life.
As people of God, we are called to make constructive, life-affirming choices, so that others may see what the path of life looks like. Jesus called his followers "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14a), and challenged them to become "sons of light" (John 12:36a). Paul told the Ephesians, "Live as children of light" (Eph. 5:8b). Our choices affect the people around us, either directly through the consequences of those choices, or indirectly through the impact of our lives on them.
Joshua called on the Israelites to "'choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,'" (Josh. 24:15a). Each day, each moment, is a new challenge, a new opportunity, to choose the path of light, to reject "the dark side." The path of light is a constant path, one that runs day after day, year after year. A train can derail at any of a number of places along the track; so too, lives can be "derailed" at any time, for any number of reasons. The choice is not merely for "this day," but for a lifetime. With every decision, we must reaffirm our choice to walk in the way of God. And with every decision, we have another opportunity to show someone else the way.
"'Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.'
"Then the people answered, 'Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.'" (Josh. 24:14-18 NIV).